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Once upon a Time in Widescreen: The Films of Sergio Leone

Friday, October 12, 2007
7:00 p.m. A Fistful of Dollars
Sergio Leone (Italy, 1964)

(Per un pugno di dollari). After completing a few sodden sword-and-sandal spectaculars, Sergio Leone chucked the togas for chaps and cheroots, reinventing the Western as a widescreen swath of pistol-packin' passion, depraved desperadoes, and barren landscape. This first "spaghetti" Western was a sagebrush version of Kurosawa's Yojimbo with lanky Clint Eastwood as The Man with No Name, an itinerant gunslinger who finds himself in a beat-up border town ruled over by two ruthless clans. Dressed in the poncho and dusty Stetson that would be his well-worn wardrobe through two sequels, the nameless one plays one clan off the other in a bit of inspired treachery, bringing him much more than two bits for his trouble. Like Eastwood's flinty character, the border town is nameless, an unruly frontier where six-gun alliances evaporate swiftly in the delirious sun. Ennio Morricone's bravura mix of surf guitar, gongs, and rustic choir only adds to the delirium of this virtuosic oater filled with tumbleweed nihilism.

—Steve Seid

• Written by Leone, Duccio Tessari, from a story by Tonio Alombi. Photographed by Jack Dalmas. Music by Ennio Morricone [as Dan Savio]. With Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volontè, Wolfgang Lukschy. (96 mins, Color, 'Scope, 35mm, From MGM)